The Deep South isn’t exactly renowned as a hotbed for electronic pop bands, but Porcelain People gives major lie to the cliché that nothing but blues music and country singers hail from the region. This is a wildly varied and flexible baker’s dozen of songs with just the right amount of creative force exerted to make the material come to life. The production on Streetlights, for a duo presumably working on a limited budget, is a vivid listening experience and never lacks a convincing sonic framework. One of the album’s unexpected delights is vocalist Josh Thornhill and his emotive, musically pleasing voice. Keyboardist Fred Kalil spreads out lush, yet never overwhelming, electronica textures while Thornhill’s voice effortlessly glides over the top of his color. These songs play in a remarkably full-bodied way and never lack for dramatic effectiveness.
Few cuts from the release personify this better than the opening song and title track. There’s a faint hint of the epic in the way that Porcelain People are able to structure their compositions in very dynamic ways despite not working with a band configuration. They create their percussion from synthesizer work and it alternates, over the course of the entire album, between sounding quite robotic and surprisingly natural. Thornhill’s voice is revelatory from the first song on and the second offering, “Vital”, underscores the assertion. This is one of the melodic peaks on Streetlights and has a vivid gracefulness that nonetheless flashes moments of considerable power. A compelling rhythm drives “Start It Over” and underpins the song throughout. It clangs and rattles like rickety machinery, but there’s an unfailing consistency to it as well that gives the track understated punch. “Play In My Paradise” really reaches for the pop brass ring in a big way with its ambling conviviality and the attention grabbing guitar flourish opening the song. One of the duo’s abiding qualities is their talent for immediately gaining a listener’s attention. There’s almost a reggae lope to the song’s verses that will surprise many.
“Kingdom”, the album’s sole instrumental, is a delicately woven electronica gem with some nifty jolts tucked into its structure assured to keep listeners on their toes. The uptempo electro rock groove of “Feeling Like Falling” is certainly one of the album’s mainstream high points, but it’s a substantive song no matter how great its potential for widespread appeal. Porcelain People will shock some yet again with the hints of soulful R&B bleeding through the song “Undeniable”, but the real kicker comes from hearing Thornhill essay the lyrics like he is born to sing this sort of material. The pensive, deliberate beauty opening “Lullaby” promises an ending for Streetlights akin to a leaf gently wafting to the ground and, while Porcelain People feel naturally compelled to flesh out its rather spartan beginnings, this finale never overreaches and neatly closes a circle opened with the first song. Streetlights is a work of rare and unexpected warmth in a genre typically associated with shallowness and transient joys. Porcelain People are far from your typical electro pop band, however, and are destined to travel far from this point forward.